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Family, culture, community celebrated at Pacific Islanders festival in Elk Grove

In World
June 09, 2024

Family — Ohana — brought hundreds to Elk Grove Regional Park on Saturday to celebrate Polynesian culture and community at the first Pacific Islander Festival.

“When you come to events like this, you get plenty of people into the Polynesian community, but you also get plenty of families that haven’t seen each other for a long time,” said Adam Imocelda, of Elk Grove, behind the booth of his apparel business, Hooked on Ohana.

Family, indeed. His wife, Carmela, was at the helm of her AK Candle Co., booth next door.

“You come to an event like this and you see your cousin or an auntie or somebody you haven’t seen in a long time,” Imocelda said. “Ohana is really big at these events.”

It was big on a bright Saturday for the inaugural festival featuring Polynesian dancers, music, and food throughout the day. Most important, though, was the coming together of cultures.

“We really wanted to spread awareness of the different Pacific Islander cultures,” said organizer Vanessa Moa of the Northern California Pacific Islander Organization.

Entertainment, workshops and more from hula to clay working to mural making were just some of the tools on hand Saturday to teach about the culture, she said.

“We have Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii, Fiji — all kinds — to come and share with our community.”

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders are a small but steadily growing community in Elk Grove.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of Elk Grove’s population that identified as Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander increased from 1.2% in 2010 to 1.5% in 2020 — about 2,600 people in a city of nearly 180,000.

Salen Singh and wife Raksha are two of the 2,600. Elk Grove residents for 22 years, the couple were dressed in customary Fijian tapa for the occasion on Saturday.

“This is the first Northern California festival. We’re originally from the Fiji Islands, so we’re excited to see Elk Grove have something like this,” Salen Singh said.

“We wanted to bring the community together so we can share the culture through dance, music, arts,” Herrera said. “Our goal is to be able to provide the resources and the support for the Pacific culture. Northern California hasn’t really had an event to bring the awareness and really bring the culture together. Hopefully, it will continue to grow.”

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